JAKARTA – Indonesian armed forces deployed on Wednesday more personnel in the provinces of Papua and West Papua to contain ongoing independence protests which have turned violent in several areas of the region.
In the cities of Fak Fak and Timika security forces dispersed hundreds of protesters by firing tear gas, according to videos of activists EFE gained access to.
The protests have been ongoing in major cities of the region which have witnessed armed conflicts and a secessionist movement for decades.
In the capital of West Papua, Manokwari, demonstrators had set fire to the legislative council building on Monday.
The ministry of transport on Wednesday said the violence in Fak Fak had led non-Papuan residents to take refuge in their homes and to the closure of its main port which is one of the key locations where security forces have been deployed.
Security minister, Wiranto on Tuesday told media that the military contingent deployed the following day would provide security at key locations in the two provinces.
The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has slowed down the access to the internet in the two provinces since the protests kicked off on Monday, where the journalists and foreign academics have been granted restricted access.
The trigger to the civil unrest was the arrest of 43 pro-independence college students on Saturday on the Surabaya on the island of Java.
Indonesian nationalists took to the streets to insult the students for allegedly disrespecting the country’s flag.
The two provinces located on the western half of the island of New Guinea belongs to Indonesia, a territory rich in natural resources and scene of a separatist conflict since independence from the Netherlands in 1963.
The eastern half of the island is the independent state of Papua New Guinea.